The Kathiresan kovil or Puthiya (new) Kathiresan kovil is a beautiful one easily recognizable from Galle Road in Bambalapitiya -the temple is dedicated to the war God Skanda or Murugan.
Kovils are typically vertical structures heavily adorned with images from Hindu mythology. On the corners of the roof of the Kathiresan kovil you’ll find Bhairava the Frightful, a fierce manifestation of Shiva.
The men selling garlands at the front gate told us that the temple is likely more than a hundred years old.
The kovil has both old and new sections, some parts in bright colours and some in gold paint – it’s all very grand and superfluous, but the craftsmanship of the artist behind the sculpted figures is amazing. At the back of the premises to the left are the Kathiresan Hall and further in Manikka Pillaiyar Kalai Rangam, halls where weddings are often carried out.
If you go round the back of the temple, you’ll also find some cages of love birds and cockatoos and even a pretty peahen. We were told they’re kept as pets by the temple keepers. Photography is not usually allowed at the temple but luckily we got there when the temple was closed to the public.
The inside of the temple is spacious and has separate shrines for deities, similarly decorated. Visitors bring garlands sold at the gates and sometimes even expensive materials to adorn the deities. In July/August, or the Tamil month of Aadi, the Kathiresan temples of Bambalapitiya and Pettah take part in the Vel Festival, where a chariot is carried from the New Kathiresan in Pettah to the one in Bamba, surrounded by a procession of performers and musicians. Some of the very passionate devotees pierce their faces with spears for the occasion.
Temple hours are usually from 5.30AM to 10.30AM, and 5.30PM to 8PM, every day, although we were told the temple is particularly teeming with crowds on Fridays and Saturdays. The Kathiresan kovil is a very cool place to visit if Hindu architecture is something that fascinates you.